Like It Is: Activists Seek Gary Byrd to carry torch from Gil Noble

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They were united in their demand that Byrd be given the opportunity to replace the recently retired Gil Noble, host of the award winning series "Like It Is."

[Commentary]

Some See Gains in drive for Byrd

Dave Davis, President and General Manager of WABC TV came out Thursday to face the angry crowd of demonstrators  gathered in a sea of umbrellas outside of his station.

More than 100 demonstrators, including two elected officials, and leaders from a broad spectrum of activist educational
and social organizations  were present with a list of demands that included the hiring of veteran broadcaster Gary Byrd.

Members of CEMOTAP, DECEMBER 12th Movement, National Black United Front, The Original Black Panther Party, Board For the Education of People of African Ancestry, People's Organization for Progress, Black New Yorkers for
Educational Excellence and The Freedom Party  were there in full force.

They were united in their demand that Byrd be given the opportunity to replace the recently retired Gil Noble, host of  the award winning series "Like It Is."  Noble holds the copyright to the title "Like it Is”, so the station was planning to change the title of a new show to "Here and Now."

Talks between Davis and members of a coalition headed by CEMOTAP regarding the host, title and other transition issues broke down last week when Davis had appeared intransigent in his insistence that he was replacing Noble with rotating news reporters from the WABC TV news staff.

At the last  meeting  Davis admitted to  community leaders that he had never heard of Gary Byrd. Davis’ response reverberated  throughout the community and within in one week an angry crowd gathered at the entrance of WABC TV
chanting "We want Gary Byrd" and "Get in step with Imhotep and Dave D, who is he?"

In a move unprecedented in the series of community protests that have occurred at the station each time the community has perceived a threat to "Like it Is, " President  and General manager, Davis came out and faced the crowd of Byrd  supporters.  He told the crowd he had spoken to Gary Byrd and was trying to arrange a meeting with him.


Imhotep Gary
Byrd confirmed that he was called by Davis and invited to a meeting.
Byrd said he has not yet been able to attend such a meeting because he
is still grieving the loss of his life partner, writer and broadcaster
Vanessa Cooper.


The news was met with mixed reviews. Davis did not linger at the demonstration. Many in the crowd were not impressed  with his remarks and shouted remarks to let him know that. However there were as many who felt it was a step in the right
direction as there were those who felt that it was too little too late.

Some of the leadership shook Davis' hand and exchanged relatively civil conversation with him.

City Councilman Charles Barron was unmoved and said, “I am not ready to shake hands on it until Gary Byrd is hired.”  Dr. James McIntosh, Co-chair of CEMOTAP said, "We should not have to come out into the street to be heard. These are  public airways. We are not begging for justice. This demonstration is a declaration of war not only against WABC TV but anyone who tries to deny African people access to the public airways."

He added, "In upcoming days our coalition will be meeting at CEMOTAP to demand access at WNBC, WCBS, WPIX and Fox 5. We want to see people like Bob Law, Camille Yarbrough, Bernard White, Milton Allimadi, and Herb Boyd, and others at these other stations. The attempt to steal the last glimmer of light from our community has served as a wake up call."

After various leaders spoke and vowed a protracted struggle the group formed a picket line that extended the length of the block and back. Viola Plummer of December 12th Movement asked the crowd to pledge they would continue to fight and “not just  accept crumbs.” They vowed to return if Byrd is not hired soon.

"At our last meeting a compromise which respected Davis' desire to stick with newsroom staff and still have Gary Byrd was suggested but Davis at that time seemed intransigent," added
CEMOTAP Co-Chair Betty Dopson. "I think by coming out to face the demonstrators he is acknowledging that we were advising him correctly and that he should accept the resources of information and expertise that Byrd has to offer."

She continued: "It was also helpful that Davis rebroadcast his tribute to Noble last week and included the formerly censored remarks of Councilman Barron praising Noble for supporting political prisoners. This happened despite the earlier claim of producer Tracey Bagley at our last meeting that the remarks had been destroyed by a computerized timer. I don't want to be too hasty but it appears we may be moving in the right direction."


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